Saturday, 9 August 2014

8 years on

dear readers

My million apologies for failing to update this blog in the past 3 years. Some of you have wondered if I'm still alive, and I don't blame you. Yes, I assure you that I'm still very much alive by God's grace ...... and you will hear from me soon.

Thank you to those who have read this blog & written to me. I have promised you that I would be updating this blog soon and I will. 

If you have recently been diagnosed with nose cancer, my heart & prayers are with you. I hope you will find this blog and my 2 other related blogs helpful as you begin your journey with nose cancer. Do write & I will respond.

Your fellow NPC or nose cancer survivor,
sockkim / shuqin / kim

(you may call me by any of these names)

Saturday, 31 December 2011

farewell papa

It was Monday 26 Dec 2011, 11.40am.

I was on my way back to Singapore. The express coach had turned into the North-South Highway from Ayer Hitam. For the last one hour, I had tried to engage my mind on a game of “sudoku” on my iphone but I simply could not concentrate. My mind kept playing back the events of the last few days while my curious eyes were fixated on a fly which I noticed had been “walking” on the window pane since I boarded the coach an hour ago. I would have normally tried to shoo away or kill a fly if it dared to come near me, but this particular fly was rather strange. It did not disturb me, so I decided to leave it alone.

Just then, my phone rang & I jumped. It was my eldest brother. I froze & my heart began to beat faster. My intuition told me he was bringing me bad news.

You have to come home again. Dad had just passed away,” my eldest brother said in Hokkien. I replied with a brief “Ok” as my throat suddenly became choked. Tears gradually welled up in my eyes. I glanced at the window pane. The fly had mysteriously disappeared.

My last conversation with papa (16-18 Dec 2011)

I travelled home to Batu Pahat on 16 Dec when I received news that papa was very sick. Papa had been diagnosed with pneumonia. When I first saw papa in the hospital, I had a shock. I almost couldn’t recognise papa. He had lost so much weight. He was all skin & bones. He looked so frail. I tried to hold back my tears. I had never seen papa like this before. Papa had never been seriously ill in all his 82 years. My heart pained to see him in this condition.

I spoke into papa’s ears as he was hard of hearing. I said in Hokkien, “Pa, I’m xxxxx (my pet name). I’ve come back to see you.” Papa looked at me & waved his hand (a sign that he had heard me). Papa had lost his voice. He mumbled some words but mum & I could not figure out what he was saying. I guessed he was trying to say, “I’m happy you’re back!”

On the morning of Sunday 18 Dec 2011, the doctor and nurse came to check on papa. Papa's extremely low blood pressure was of grave concern. Mum asked if papa would recover. I explained dad's condition to mum & told her she had to be mentally prepared.

Mum is a strong woman & a devoted wife. She & papa had been married for 60 years. She tube-fed, washed & cleaned papa everyday without a word of complaint or murmuring despite the heavy toll on her aged body. I also saw mum standing by papa's bedside talking, praying & singing hymns to papa now & then. Mum was truly papa's Godsend angel. We depended on mum to take care of papa. And she was papa's pillar of strength till his last breath.

I walked over to papa's bedside to talk to papa. Words began to flow out from my heart. It turned out to be an unplanned farewell speech to papa. All the while I was talking to papa, I could see that he was responding to me with his eyes wide open as he listened intently to every word I said. It was the first time in my life I spoke with such heartfelt emotions to papa. And I was glad I did. Because I could see that he was visibly moved.

In a mixture of Hokkien & Mandarin, I said, “Pa, thank you for bringing me up. Thank you for giving me an English education without which I would never have been able to go to UK to further my studies." (note : I am the only English-educated “ang-moh” in my family of eight siblings)

Holding back tears, I continued, “Pa, if Jesus comes to bring you home to heaven, please follow Jesus with joy and peace. Don’t worry about us here. I assure you that we know how to take care of your home --- we know how to lock the gate & doors at night, we know how to make sure there is enough water in the house for you have taught us to do all these things (note : papa had been doing these chores all his life; it was his way of caring for the family. Water rationing happens frequently in my hometown and papa always made sure we had enough water to drink & bathe). Don’t worry about mum. I will take good care of mum. I will take good care of this family.”

Pa, if our Lord Jesus says to you ‘Come home’, please go home with Jesus. Don’t be afraid. Jesus has prepared for you a house in heaven. And you will not be alone in heaven. Ah Ma, Bi-xia (my second sister), Li-chek (papa's brother), they are all in heaven. You will get to see them in heaven. Of course we will all miss you. But we will see you in heaven one day.”

Pa, I’m taking the 1.30pm coach back to Singapore later. Next Sunday is Christmas Day. I promise I will come back again to see you, to celebrate Christmas with you. Please wait for me. But if you can’t wait, pa, then we'll meet again in heaven.”

At this point, I saw tears streaming down papa’s face. I called for mum & said, “Mummy, papa is shedding tears!” Mum quickly came to dad’s side to wipe away his tears. Mum & I were both fighting back our own tears too. I was very surprised by papa’s response. It was the first time in my life I saw papa shedding tears. And I didn’t know it was to be my last conversation with papa.

My last Christmas with papa (24-26 Dec 2011)
I came back again to see papa on 24 Dec 2011. I reached Batu Pahat after 7pm due to heavy traffic jam at the Second Link. Papa had been discharged from hospital & was recuperating at home. The minute I reached home, I went to papa’s bedside to let him know I was home. I told him that it was the Lord Jesus’ birthday tomorrow. As usual, he waved to show he had heard me.

My two good friends, Elder Lim Aik Leong and Mary Teo, dropped by to visit me a while later. Before the clock struck midnight, we walked to papa’s bedside to sing him a carol. As we started singing “Silent Night, Holy Night” in English, mum and my eldest brother came to join us (the rest of the family was in church for the Christmas service). After we finished singing, Mary told me later that she saw tears coming down papa’s face (I could not see from where I was standing). Elder Lim ended with a prayer. I did not know that was to be my last Christmas with papa.

My last day with papa (26 Dec 2011)
The morning after Christmas Day, papa was coughing quite badly the whole morning. I was taking the 10.30am coach back to Singapore as all afternoon tickets had been sold out. Although I felt reluctant to leave papa like this, I don’t understand why I still left for Singapore that morning. On hindsight, I thought I should have stayed put. Maybe God sent me back to Singapore as He did not want me to see papa pass away. God knew I would not be able to take it well.

So while I was on my way back to Singapore on the morning of 26 Dec 2011, God took papa home at 11.30am. And I returned to Batu Pahat again that same night. Papa’s funeral was held at Saving Grace Church in Batu Pahat on 29 Dec 2011. Papa is now resting in peace at the Batu Pahat Christian cemetery.

Lord, thank You for enabling me to be with papa in his last few days on earth.

Farewell papa ....... we will miss you dearly till we meet again.

from : mum, your beloved children & grandchildren


Friday, 30 December 2011


(My youngest sister, Shuli, delivered the eulogy in Mandarin at papa’s funeral service on 29 Dec 2011. Here is the translated English version. The Chinese version is below.)

Papa’s early years
Papa was born on 17 Oct 1929 in Sri Medan, a small village on the outskirts of Batu Pahat. My grandparents had migrated to Malaya from Fujian’s Nan-An county in China. Papa was the eldest son. He had one brother & three sisters. Papa’s father died of a critical illness when papa was only twelve years old. After my grandfather’s death, life became hard for the family and my grandmother decided to move the family from Sri Medan to Batu Pahat in search of a better life.

Papa completed only four years of primary education in a Chinese school. After my grandfather died, papa had to stop schooling to support the family. He worked as an apprentice in “Bie-You-Tian” restaurant. At the age of 15, the chef noticed papa's interest in cooking & promoted papa to be his assistant. Five years later, at the age of 20, papa became the restaurant's chef. Papa worked a total of 29 years at “Bie-You-Tian” restaurant.

Papa married mum in 1951. They have 3 sons, 5 daughters and 8 grandchildren.

Papa’s work
In 1970, papa left the employment of “Bie-You-Tian” restaurant & ventured into business with a few friends. They opened a new restaurant called “Xi-Li-Men” and papa worked as the chef. In 1983, papa & his business partners opened a second restaurant called “Suan-Xi-Lou”. A few years later, a third restaurant called “Jin-Xi-Lou” was added to the stable of restaurants. Because of his meticulous & honest character, papa was put in charge of the restaurant’s daily takings & accounts. At age 70, papa finally called it a day & retired from work. After having worked for some 58 years, papa felt it was time to spend his golden years at home with his family.

Papa’s character
Papa was a good & responsible father. He was a man of few words. He was a homely person and showed his love for us in his own quiet ways.

Papa was always concerned for our safety. When we returned to KL or Singapore, papa would always call us to make sure we had reached home safely. And when papa knew we were coming back to Batu Pahat, he would always wait up for us no matter how late it was. Papa was always the last person to retire for the night as he would make his rounds around the house, making sure the gate & doors were locked and everyone was safe and sound.

Because of his humble beginnings, papa was a very thrifty man. Papa worked hard for the family & spent his hard-earned money to meet the needs of the family. He had never spent a single cent on himself. Papa was very independent & preferred to go around town on his humble bicycle rather than to be driven. Papa cycled to work, to church, to the bank, to pay the utility & telecom bills, to everywhere. Papa & his mini-bike were a familiar sight in Batu Pahat. It was only in the later part of his life, when papa’s legs became weaker, that papa had to reluctantly give up his bicycle and passed on his day-to-day responsibilities to us.

Papa’s salvation
After my second sister, Bi-xia, died of cancer in 1988, papa & mum both received the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord. My parents were baptised in 1989. Praise the Lord that by 1992, our whole family became Christians, including my then 89-year-old Ah Ma. Ah Ma went home to the Lord in 1997, at a ripe old age of 93.

Papa’s last Christmas
On Christmas Eve this year, my third sister’s friends, Elder Aik Leong & Teo Tiam, came to my home to celebrate Christmas with papa. Together with mum & my elder brother, they sang “Silent Night, Holy Night” to papa. Papa was so touched that tears streamed down his face. We did not know that was to be papa’s last Christmas with us.

I would like to end with a letter that papa left behind for us.

Letter from Papa

My dear beloved,

I see countless Christmas trees around the world below,
With tiny lights, like Heaven’s stars, reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular, be happy for me, the ones I hold so dear,
For I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you the joy their voices bring,
For it’s beyond description hearing the angels sing.

I’m sending you special gifts from my Heavenly Father above :
I send you each fond memories, and my undying love.
Love is the gift more precious than pure gold;
It was the most important theme in the stories Jesus told.

I know how much you miss me. I feel the pain inside your heart,
But I’m not so very far away. We really aren’t apart.
Don’t weep for me, dear ones, for I’m happy here.
See, Jesus invited me to Heaven for Christmastime this year.

Please love each other dearly, as our Heavenly Father says to do,
For there’s no other way to count the blessigs that He has in store for you.
So, have a Merry Christmas and wipe away your tears.
Be glad for me ……. because I’m with Jesus Christ this year!

your dear papa
25 Dec 2011



家父張明亮弟兄,祖藉福建省南安縣,1929年10月17日生於柔佛州鐵山 (Sri Medan)。當他十二歲時,父親因重病離開他。因日本時期戰爭之故,與母親及弟妹遷居峇株吧轄。於1951年,與林氏家二女兒林連珠結為夫妻,育有三男五女。

曾在Sri Medan華小受四年的教育。於1941年,十二歲那年在 “別有天餐廳” 當學徒,賺取生活費來養活家人。因他的好學精神,十五歲時就當了廚師助手。於1970年,二十歲就當 “別有天餐廳” 當主廚。他在 “別有天餐廳” 共做了29年之久。1970年,與一些朋友們合作開了 “喜臨門餐廳”。十多年後,1983年,又與一些朋友合股開了一間 “雙禧樓”。因他的誠實見證,他當了 “雙禧樓”的財政職位。又經過數年之後,又跟同樣的股東開了另一間 “金禧樓”。於70歲,正式退休,在家享福,與孫子們同樂,直到2011年6月左右,他的身體逐漸虛弱,直到安返天家。



於1988年,當二姐佩霞安息後,我爸爸媽媽信了主。一年後,我父親於1989年受洗歸入主耶穌的名下,於1992年全家歸主。感謝主,他89歲的母親後來也信了主,並一年後,她受了洗。 1997年安息主懷。

最後,於今年12/24晚上,三姐與二位好朋友(媽媽與大哥,Elder Aik Leong & Teo Tiam) 在半夜在我們父親面前 “報佳音” 唱 “平安夜” ,父親聽了流下眼淚,最後,Aik Leong 長老為他作一個禱告。我們也想不到,這是我父親最後一次過聖誕節。






這是耶穌曾在地上常教導我們 ~ 愛的真理。



親愛的父親 親筆

Friday, 16 April 2010

an update ...... 3 years on

More than 3 years have passed since that fateful day. My journey with nose cancer has been an unforgettable experience and I'm thankful to God for walking with me through "the valley of the shadow of death".

The recent CT scan taken in March 2010 showed no new tumours or signs of cancer. This is the 1st time in 3 years I have received an overall "all-clear" report. I'm thankful to God for the good results.

Here's a brief chronology of my cancer journey :
2006 - diagnosed with Stage 2 NPC (nose cancer), underwent radiotherapy
2007 - CT scan picked up tiny nodules on right lung, metastasis suspected
2008 - underwent lung resection (keyhole surgery) to remove 3 cancerous nodules
2010 - CT scan showed no tumour on lungs & other parts of body

"I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify Your name forever.
For great is Your love toward me;
You have delivered me from the depths of the grave."
(Psalm 86:12-13)

eternally grateful to our eternal God,

Thursday, 9 July 2009

living each day by God's grace

A bear, a lion and a pig meet.
Bear says : "If I roar in the forest, the entire forest shivers with fear!"
Lion says : "If I roar in the jungle, the entire jungle is afraid of me!"
Pig says : "Big deal .... I only have to cough, and the entire planet lives in fear!"

Humorous but true. The pig or swine, regarded as the most unclean of all animals, has instilled fear around the world. It has affected the way we carry out our daily activities.

I have two follow-up consultations at the National Cancer Centre this week. One of the appointments was postponed from May to July because of MOH's orange alert for H1N1. Non-emergency cases were moved to a later date to reduce the number of patients coming to NCC each day as cancer patients were believed to be more vulnerable to the H1N1 virus.

The atmosphere at the National Cancer Centre is now very different from before. The clinics are quieter & less crowded as there are less patients & visitors. This translates into shorter queue & faster service. How nice! Everyone is also required to wear a mask. You need to be able to recognise people by their eyes or voices. How fascinating!

So how do I fare this time? All the test results are normal. My lung is my main concern, so the good x-ray result is comforting and reassuring. Medical tests & results do not only tell me where I am
but they also indicate to me if I am on track.

Life after cancer brings many new challenges. One common question cancer survivors often ask, "Is there anything I should do to keep cancer from coming back?" In my case, what should I do to prevent cancer from returning to my nose or lung or spreading to other parts of the body? Doctors do not have the answer. So I look for my own answer.

Qigong exercise is one new activity I have picked up. Qigong is said to be a good exercise for cancer survivors as it helps to improve blood circulation & strengthen the immune system against diseases such as cancer. Qigong works on the premise that cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Qigong uses deep diaphragmatic breathing method which is the proper & healthy way of breathing. I never knew there is a correct way of breathing. And I never knew I had not been breathing correctly all my life.

So now I take lessons once a week & make it a daily discipline to practise qigong every morning. Will qigong help to keep my cancer in check? I hope so. If I don't try, I won't know. And even if it doesn't work, it doesn't matter; at least I get to enjoy the exercise. I will do whatever I can possibly do to keep my body & lungs strong & healthy. I will leave to God to do the impossible for only God can.

I'm thankful that each day is a gift of grace from God,


Thursday, 12 March 2009

goodbye to cancer?

It has been more than 2 months since my lung operation in Dec 2008. What's the latest?

The PET scan I did on Monday has given me an "all-clear" sign, at least for now. The PET scan report, which I collected yesterday, made this conclusion : "No new metastases are seen; no evidence of local recurrence." What this means is there is no sign of cancer in my nose, lungs or other parts of the body. This is indeed good news. Thank You, Lord.

To the uninitiated, PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan is a diagnostic imaging technique that can help detect suspected cancer, show the effectiveness of cancer treatment & check for recurrence of cancer. But PET scan is not always 100% reliable in detecting cancer. There could be false positives or false negatives. (That was what happened last year when PET scan failed to pick up cancer in my right lung.) Because PET scan is rather expensive (SGH charges $2700 & there is no govt subsidy), doctors usually recommend it only if it is really necessary.

Back to my story ...... so, can I say goodbye to cancer? Is there undetected cancer in my body? Will cancer return? Have I been cured of cancer? No one knows, except God. The only guaranteed assurance I have is that my life is eternally secure in God.

What's next? My oncologist says there is no need for chemotherapy treatment but he will need to monitor me closely. The 1st 5-years are crucial for cancer survivors. I'm now in the half-way mark. According to my surgeon, 20%-30% of patients with metastatic NPC to the lung will not suffer a relapse. Past statistics showed that 70%-80% of patients might suffer a relapse. Statistic is only a number. Whichever side of the statistics I'm on, I know that God is on my side. And God is all I need.
"Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you."
(Psalm 116:7)

thanks for being a part of my life these 2-over years,

Thursday, 29 January 2009

xin nian meng en!

Happy New Year to you!

Yes, I'm back. I had a wonderful time in Batu Pahat catching up with family & friends. But I'm happy to be back in Singapore too ..... because I cannot stand the water & mosquitoes there! The water in BP has a horrible taste and the mosquitoes are attracted to me. I must say that Singapore has spoilt me with its clean water & clean environment.

I terminated my global roaming service last year as I seldom travel out of Singapore. As a result, I received your sms-es only after I arrived in Singapore on Wed. For 7 years, I had paid $5 pm for something I hardly use. Isn't that silly?

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy & peace
as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit."
(Romans 15:13)

here's wishing you a fruitful year,
tsk tsk

Saturday, 24 January 2009

balik kampung for CNY

Today I "balik kampung" to Batu Pahat for Chinese New Year. Each year might be my last new year so I will make an effort to go back to my hometown to have reunion dinner with my parents & siblings. One month after my recent lung surgery, I think I should be fit to travel the 3-hour journey by road.

Xin Nian Meng En!
tsk tsk

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

cancer recurrence? yes, cancer has spread to my lung

This is the news everyone has been waiting for.....the biopsy results.

Backgound : 3 nodules in right lung were removed on 22 Dec 2008

Bad news : metastatic NPC to lung ("metastatic" means cancer has spread to a region remote from its site of origin. In my case, it means cancer has spread to my right lung from its site of origin, the nose. This is not the same as primary lung cancer. Metastatic cancer is also called secondary cancer.)

Good news : the cancerous nodules have been taken out

Treatment : since the cancerous tumour has been removed, chemotherapy might not be necessary. I will have a better picture when I next see my oncologist in Feb.

Chances of cancer recurrence : there is a chance cancer might return in 70%-80% of cases.

Prayer : praise the Lord the cancerous tumour has been removed. Please pray that I will fall within the 20%-30% , that by the mercy & grace of God cancer will not recur.

"I love the Lord for He heard my voice;
He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me,
I will call on Him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble & sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord :
"Oh Lord, save me!"

The Lord is gracious & righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, He saved me.

Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you."

(Psalm 116:1-7)

Thank You, Lord for You are so good to me.
Thank you, dear brothers & sisters, for praying.
The journey has not ended. Please uphold me in your prayers.

tsk tsk

Monday, 5 January 2009

happy birthday, tsk

According to western tradition, there are 12 days of Christmas. Jesus was born on the 1st day of Christmas - 25 Dec. I was born on the 12th day of Christmas - 5 Jan. Yes, today is my birthday.

Friends know that I do not like to celebrate birthdays. Just an sms or card will do. I prefer to spend a quiet day with the Lord.

But today, I received some surprises. Yesterday night, a friend brought me a small cake & flowers. Today, 2 friends came to share some brief moments with me. Another friend sent a basket of flowers & gifts by delivery. Some sent greeting cards & sms messages. To all who have remembered the day of my humble birth, I say "Thank You."

Tomorrow is D-Day. It's the day I receive the biopsy results. I hope for the best but am prepared for the worst. On this night before D-Day, I am filled with God's peace & presence as I submit myself to God's sovereign will.
"Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in You.
Show me the way I should go,
for to You I lift up my soul.
Teach me to do Your will.
for You are my God."
(Psalm 143:8,10)

Lord, into Your hands I commit my life,
tsk tsk

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

thank You, Lord

About 25 people turned up at the Thanksgiving Open House today. Thank you for coming to celebrate God's goodness with me. Your presence & prayers were a great encouragement to me.

To those who couldn't come but had sent their well wishes via call, sms or email, thank you. Thank you, Ai Fong, for initiating this Thanksgiving Open House. Thanks also to those who had cooked or bought food. Each one of you had brought cheer to my heart. Thank you for spending the last day of the year with me. Thank you for leaving behind such sweet memories.

Thank You, Lord for 2008 -- for joy & sorrow, for roses & thorns, for sunshine & rain, for calm & storms, for mountains & valleys, for laughter & tears, for pleasure & pain, for hope & despair, for health & sickness, for peace & turmoil, for comfort & grief. Thank You, Lord for Your strength & grace to live each day.

You can view some photos under the heading, "Thanksgiving Dec 2008" on the side column.

"(We) will celebrate Your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of Your righteousness."
(Psalm 145:7)

thank you for journeying along with me this past year,
tsk tsk

Monday, 29 December 2008

God's food angels

Before my surgery, some friends asked me out of concern. "You live alone, who is going to look after you when you are discharged? What about your meals, who is going to cook for you?" My reply was, "God will provide." And God did.

I know that God will provide. God had provided in the past. This time, God will provide again. I did not make any arrangements for post-surgery care. I did not inform my family in Malaysia about my surgery. I did not wish to cause them unnecessary anxiety or worry. My family does not read my blog as they are all Chinese-educated. Only my elder sister in Singapore & my younger sister in Taipei are aware of my condition.

My job is to rest well & trust my Heavenly Father to provide. My Father's job is to provide all my needs, just as He has promised in Matthew 6:25-34. And He has.

On the day I was discharged, Ai Min offered me her ensuite room with maid services to help me recuperate until I was well enough to look after myself. I was overwhelmed by her love. But I declined her kind offer.

From the day I was discharged, the Lord began to send His food angels. Each day, someone will volunteer to bring me home-cooked food for lunch or dinner. Some brought me groceries or brewed health tonics. Only the Lord could mobilise these food angels to minister to my needs. I am truly touched by their love in action. I feel so blessed to belong to the family of God.

Lord, You are my Jehovah-Jireh. Thank You for providing all my needs.

tsk tsk

Sunday, 28 December 2008

open house on 31 Dec 2008

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ

I underwent lung surgery on Mon 22 Dec 2008 to remove some nodules on my right lung. I was discharged on Fri 26 Dec 2008 after 5 days in the hospital. The operation was successful & I am recovering well. All praise & glory be to our God Almighty.

I would like to thank each one of you for standing by me & praying alongside me in my journey through cancer. Some of you had wanted to visit me when I was warded but I had to post a “No Visit” request on my blog in the first 3 days as I was too weak to receive visitors. I was in great pain & discomfort. But I received a Christmas gift from the Lord when my condition improved by leaps & bounds on Christmas Day. Those of you who visited me on Christmas Day were surprised at my quick recovery. Again, all praise & glory be to God.

My BSF Teaching Leader, Yang Ai Fong, suggested holding an Open House at my residence on Wed 31 Dec 2008 from 1pm to 4pm. The purpose of this Open House is to give thanks to God. This Open House will also allow those who had wanted to visit me at the hospital but could not. I understand that some of you had actually planned or gone to visit me at SGH Ward 56 on Sunday thinking that I was still warded!

Open House means free-and-easy, you may come & go as you wish. Some simple food & drinks will be provided. Ai Fong had graciously volunteered to bake a turkey, to make up for my spending Christmas in the hospital!

I would like to invite you to this Open House. This Open House is open to anyone who would like to visit me. I will post this invitation on my blog too as I do not have everyone’s email addresses. RSVP is not required.

Here are the details of the Open House :

Date : Wed 31 Dec 2008
Time : 1pm – 4pm
Venue : Hillview Regency (please sms for full address)
Request : please DO NOT bring any gifts as there is no more space in my small humble apartment.

(If you are driving, you will be directed by the security guards to park on Level 4 & above at the multi-storey carpark. Ground-level parking is for residents only. Take the carpark lift to the ground floor, the first tower you see is Tower 1A.)

thank you for walking with me through this journey,

Saturday, 27 December 2008

a word of thanks to PS

Hi everyone, this is tsk. I am back.

I was discharged on Friday, 26 Dec 2008 after 5 days in the hospital. I am happy to be home. I am thankful to the Lord for all that He has done.

While I was hospitalised, PS had worked hard to keep this blog going so you could keep praying for me. "A friend in need is a friend indeed." "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Prov 18:24b) - these aptly describe my dear friend PS.

At the hospital, PS kept a daily vigil at my bedside, praying for me & sharing my pain with silent tears. She was an angel sent by God, always appearing at the right time when I was in a critical state or when I needed company. On the day of my discharge, PS spent the whole day with me at home, cleaned up my apartment, arranged with Ai Fong to deliver my dinner & made sure I was well enough to look after myself before she made her way home. And she is a mother of three.

BTW, it's time to reveal the true identity of PS - her real name is Phaik Sue. The nurses saw her everyday so one day one of them asked if we were sisters. PS replied, "We have the same Father but we are not sisters." Yes, we are sisters-in-Christ. PS hailed from Melaka, I from Batu Pahat but we met in Singapore through BSF. I thank God for BSF. BSF has given me not only spiritual food but a support group of sisters who have rallied around me in my journey through cancer.

PS, thanks for your love & the sacrifices you have made in looking after me in my time of illness. Lord, thank You for bringing PS into my life.

"...... I was sick and you looked after Me .............
whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine,
you did for Me."
(Matt 25:36, 40)

To all who have prayed & pleaded with the Lord for me, thank you. I know that God has heard all your prayers for I have recovered faster than I had expected.

All praise & glory be to our God.

tsk tsk

Friday, 26 December 2008

Surrender !!!

Help! I give up, I surrender !!!

This tsk is just too much, she is getting out of hand. Maybe her brain fell out of her head. Ask her where her brain is, then you'll know what I mean.

She sent this : Where my turkey? If don hv, ham oso can. If no ham, salmon boleh juga.
She said this : What, no chaffeur!? When AM offered her nice quiet ensuite room and helper, after she gets discharged.

Well, I am very, very happy tsk is her naughty self again. It is hand-over time. I (ps) enjoyed blogging over the past few days, but I have had enough fun. So bye, everyone! Tsk is back!

2 Thes 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

Thanks for praying, ps


Philippians 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you.
Philemon 1:4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers.

It is Boxing Day, and we give thanks to God as always.

This morning, tsk had a few visitors, and they are the last ones to visit her.

Please don't come. Tsk is not in SGH anymore, she has run off home. This is just great news for all of us who are supporting her in prayer.

Last evening, tsk thought she would have salmon for special Christmas dinner, when she looked across the other patient's food tray. What a let down, it turned out to be papaya slices in the cling wrap.

Tsk's saliva drooled all the way to AF's house. So this evening, AF brought a wonderful dinner to her home. Porridge, with salmon and vege!

Thanks for praying, ps

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas presents

Phil 4:19 My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Tsk received a wonderful present from Dr Koong this morning. First, he sent tsk to get her lung x-ray done. Her lung was clear, so the drainage tube could be removed. Her oxygen and catheter tubes were also removed. No more tubes! So she's free to move about already. She may even be discharged tomorrow.

Tsk also received a record twenty visitors today. They brought much encouragement, smiles, laughter, carols, gifts and even turkey porridge! But for that, she had to sacrifice her beauty sleep.

After talking, practically non-stop to her visitors, tsk was still not tired. Oh dear! She even had the strength to take a nice, warm bath. And all by herself! After that, she still had the energy to solve sudoku puzzles!

The power of prayer! When we worship the Lord by praying to Him, glorifying Him, witnessing for Him and submitting to Him, He works on our behalf. Our dear tsk is recovering extremely well!

Thanks for praying, ps

About key-holes

The nurse changed three dressings yesterday. So tsk thought she had three key-holes.

Well, today, tsk looked for the three key-holes, but found only two. There were three stitches at the back, and six stitches under the arm pit. The third dressing, which she thought was for another key-hole, was actually for the drainage tube.

Yes, all our praying has made tsk sleep well and eat well. She has certainly regained a lot of her strength. So much that she can even go look for her holes.

Thanks for praying, ps

Blessed Christmas!

Have a very blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Reporting on tsk

Psalm 67:3,5 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.
Psalm 69:30 I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

Tsk is definitely improving. We praise God and we give Him thanks!

She has been sleeping well, this is great for quick healing. The IV line has been removed since she can eat better - porridge which comes with some meat and vege. She is out of bed now, she can sit up on the arm chair beside her bed. But she cannot move around yet, because of the tubes. She has a new 'toy' to exercise her lungs.

The nurse changed her dressings today. Apparently, she has three key-holes. Guess where?

Tsk's throat is dry. She cannot talk too much. Be thankful.

Tsk was fore-warned by the doctor. Ocassionally, she does experience PP (piercing pain).

Thanks for praying, ps

A taste of tsk's sms-es

Hello dear friends,
Let me also share the sms-es I have been receiving from hospital ...

Going sleep now. She needs her beauty sleep.

If poss no visits as still weak cant talk pain. Leavg 4 op room now. Pray. Blog. Instructions from tsk.

I surprise too. Mayb long dlay, doesn't want me too weak go thru op. Father noes best. Guess there's emergency case last min, mine can wait. God heard ur pyr. Dr just calld up nurse 2 giv me milo n biskut! Going take showr. Hungry but must not eat or drink. Before the op.

I peaceful. Must b d power of all ur pyrs. Thank you to all of you, she appreciates your prayers.

Or mayb drug addict on high. That's what she said she may be like after op.

Going take nap now, sleepy. Told you, she needs her beauty sleep.

I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I have. Please continue to pray for tsk.

Thanks for praying, ps

Encouragement from all of you

My dear friends,
These are some of the messages I (ps) have been receiving ... let me share.

Will keep on praying for quick recovery, ability to eat and less pain.
Yes, praying for Tsk's speedy recovery.
I will continue to remember her.
Yes, it's wise not to visit her first as she'll need plenty of rest.
We'll continue to uphold her in prayers.
If there's anything I can help or do for TSK, pls don't hesitate to tell me.
Pls call me as and when you need someone to fill in a gap to do anything.
I read part of her blog and my heart went out to tsk.
Been praying that she is given the best medical advice, and for her spiritual strength to go through another big trial.
I have fond memories of her and would like to help.
When I read of situations like TSK's, my own is so small in comparison.
I am available most of the time.
Yes, I would like to go together with you.
I can provide meals, transport and house chores.
Will keep her in prayer and will visit her at sgh.
I will be there.
Will be praying.
I'd love to be able to support her thru prayer and presence.
The blog of SK really saddens & pains my heart.
I can spend Christmas morning with tsk.
Pl put me down for Dec 24th Wed afternoon.
I will visit TSK when I can for next week.
You may want to let me know what things I can pick-up (buy) for her on the way to hospital.
I can make porridge or oats, with minced meat or butter and milk?
OK, am glad to hear good news.
Sure, please put me in.
I go to the market (mon to fri, not on rainy days) in the mornings and usually I will pass Sock Kim's place. If u need any help, pls let me know.
May we remember tsk in our prayers.
PS, what can I bring for SK tmr?
I read TSK's blog, and my heart goes out to her.
Will visit SK after the op.
I am lost for words.
If she doesn't eat, it will be my lunch! Heh heh.
Let me know when and how I am needed ...
I'll be able to stay with her till evening.
Let me know timing so I can be there.
Will block Monday for her ...
Will make myself available.
Does she eat ham or turkey or salad?
Dear SK, got your heartbreaking news. Will go on my knees for you.
Been praying & will continue to pray. Psalm 41:1-3.
Dear SK, the Lord bless you & keep you & comfort you with these words from Isa 26:3-4.

With Christmas looming close and as I reflect on and give thanks for all the wonderful things, I count myself blessed to have been through BSF and for a support group like this. Each one of you are surely doing what the Lord admonished us to do. I am so deeply moved by the love, support and care provided and I know that Sock Kim must be so very touched as well. If each Christian lived our lives like this, surely the world would want to know our Saviour! Thank you for your labour of love and your love for the Lord in ministering to Sock Kim!

Thanks for praying, ps


My dear friends,

Praise God!
Rec'd an sms from tsk: Dr Koong visited. Lung doing well. Histology results not out yet. Can remove oxygen and lung tubes tomorrow. Now off glucose. Can eat without throwing up already! Can receive visitors tonight.

Her address: SGH ward 56 room 24 bed 1

Thanks for praying, ps

Christmas Eve

1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Thanks for praying!

Tsk is feeling better. She managed to take oats for breakfast this morning. Yay!

Do pray for her to eat and drink more, to regain her strength. Please continue to pray for pain relief.

I know many of you wish to visit her. Thank you for such love and concern for tsk. I think she will be ready for visitors tomorrow - Christmas Day! Please try to visit about 12-2pm or 6-8pm, during her meal times. She'd like to take her (beauty) nap in the afternoon.

Thanks for praying, ps

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Post Op

1 Thes 5:16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Thank you for praying! Tsk slept quite well last night despite the pain.

This morning, the doctor allowed, and the nurse encouraged her to take porridge and milo. She tried to drink, but could not hold it in. Not yet.

Tsk stabilised, so in the afternoon, she was moved to the general ward. Still, with all her tubes - oxygen, catheters, IV line.

At dinner time, Tsk tried some drink and tried a few (tiny) mouthfuls of porridge. Oh dear, still cannot hold in her intake. And she's beginning to feel weak and hungry.

Dear visitors, please note. Tsk is very thankful that some of you were planning to visit her tomorrow. She is terribly sorry, she doesn't think she would feel well enough to have visitors yet. Please do not come.

Please continue to PRAY:
  • for her pain management.
  • for the nausea to go away so she can eat and drink, to get stronger and better.
Thank you for praying, ps

Giving thanks

Psalm 118:21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.

We give thanks:
  • the Lord guided Prof Koong & his medical team to perform the operation well
  • there was no complication during & after the operation
  • the operation was successful, the three nodules in the right lung were removed
  • there is some post-operation side-effects (eg numbness, pain)
  • whatever the result (malignant or benign), the Lord will grant tsk His strength & peace as she goes through yet another trial
We give thanks!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Out of OT

Col 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.

Tsk is out of her 55 minute-operation. She is in very stable condition. The pre and post took a long time. She left the ward about 2.10pm and returned at 7.30pm.

The doctor said that the three nodules were removed, and that the other parts of her lung looked clear.

Tsk is in great pain. Please pray for good pain management.

Thanks for praying, ps

Operation still on

Psalm 139:10 Even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.

How encouraging to know that : God was already waiting for tsk in the operation theatre and He is still holding her hands!

Hello to each and everyone of you. It is about 5.30pm now. Tsk is still in the OT. Please continue to pray for her. After the operation is over, she will be in the high dependency ward.

Thanks for praying, ps


Finally, Tsk left her bed about 2.10pm to go for her operation.
We trust and pray.

Thanks for praying, ps

Good morning!

Psalm 5:3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

Thank you for praying for tsk! She feels at peace!

It is about 8.30am now. Tsk is up already, but not in the OT yet. The operation has been delayed. She is hungry, no food or drink. Yet she has been allowed a snack of milo and biscuits (by the surgeon). We may not know, but our Father knows best.

I will update again when I receive more information.

Thanks for praying, ps

Sunday, 21 December 2008

tsk at SGH ward 56 room 24 bed 9

Thank you to the Sunday visitors! Tsk had a good dinner. After the x-ray, she had a wonderful supper. We pray she is sleeping well tonight.

Please note, the operation is about 10am-1pm, tomorrow.

Please remember to pray that :

  • the Lord will guide Prof Koong & his medical team to perform this delicate surgery
  • there will be no complications during & after the surgery (eg no infection, stroke or bleeding)
  • the surgery will be successful in removing the affected areas in the right lung
  • there will be no or minimal post-surgery side-effects (eg numbness, pain)
  • whatever the result (malignant or benign), the Lord will grant tsk His strength & peace as she goes through yet another trial

Tsk really, really appreciates our thoughtfulness. But, please respect her requests. Please do not come before the surgery, or visit on Mon or Tue.

Thanks for praying, ps

PS takes over

By the time you read this, I would have checked into SGH Ward 56.

I would like to announce that PS is back today as my personal manager. Welcome back, PS!

While I'm warded, PS will update this blog to keep you posted on my progress. Blogging is the preferred mode of communication so there will be no emails during this period. SMS messages will be sent out only for urgent prayer requests. Please read this blog for the latest news. Try not to jam PS's line with emails or smses unless necessary. Yours truly will resume writing when I'm discharged.

May I wish you a God-blessed Christmas & New Year,

thanks for praying,
tsk tsk

Saturday, 20 December 2008

life may be unfair but God is good

On this night before I am admitted to SGH tomorrow for a lung surgery, my mind travels back to the events of the last 2 years.

  • I discovered I had nose cancer (NPC) in Aug 2006.
  • I underwent 8 weeks of radiation treatment in Sep-Oct 2006.
  • The MRI scan done in Jan 2007 confirmed the nasopharynx area behind my nose was clear of tumour.
  • My first annual CT scan in Sep 2007 showed sub-cm tiny nodules in the right lung.
  • A follow-up lung scan in Mar 2008 confirmed 2 nodules in the right lung, "suspicious of metastasis".
  • PET scan done in Mar 2008 could not determine if the nodules were malignant.
  • My second annual CT scan done in Nov 2008 made the same conclusion, "suspicious of pulmonary metastasis".
  • My oncologist referred me to see a lung surgeon.
  • On 11 Dec 2008, Dr Koong advised that the nodules should be removed as soon as possible.
  • The surgery was fixed on 22 Dec 2008.

In the 2 months between Nov & Dec 2008, there was fear & anxiety within me as I tried to make sense of what was happening. But as I confide my fears & anxieties to the Lord, I begin to feel God's peace & presence within me.

I learned from my oncologist that rarely does NPC spread to the lungs. According to him, the number of such cases so far could be counted with one hand. And one of them has to be me.

Why is life so unfair? I recently read an RBC booklet of the same title, based on the story of Asaph who wrote Psalm 73. Incidentally, one of my favourite verses is Psalm 73:26 - "My flesh & my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart & my portion forever."

Life may be unfair but God is good. God has been my Strength in times of adversity. God has been my Hope when everything seems hopeless. God has been my Peace when my heart is gripped with fear & uncertainty.

Life may be unfair but I will trust my loving Father all the way. This is because I know that God is too wise to make mistakes; God is too good to make me suffer for no reason or purpose.

I pray that it will not be cancer. Even if it is, I will still love the Lord my God with all my heart. Daniel's words came to mind :

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)

As I lie on the operating table on Monday morning, I know that you will be on your knees praying for me. I know that the Lord will be with me in the operating room. God is our Creator, our Divine Physician, our Healer.

See you all after my surgery,

tsk tsk

Friday, 19 December 2008

tsk's prayer request

Below are some details about the surgery.

Hospital : Singapore General Hospital
Admission date : Sun 21 Dec 2008, 1pm
Operation date : Mon 22 Dec 2008, 8am
Surgeon : Prof Koong HN
Length of surgery : 2-3 hours
Ward : Blk 5, Ward 56
Length of hospitalisation : about 7-8 days
Visiting hours : preferably lunch time & evenings (no visits on Mon, Tue unless necessary)

note : no phone calls, sms is preferred

Please pray that :

  • the Lord will guide Prof Koong & his medical team to perform this delicate surgery
  • there will be no complications during & after the surgery (eg no infection, stroke or bleeding)
  • the surgery will be successful in removing the affected areas in the right lung
  • there will be no or minimal post-surgery side-effects (eg numbness, pain)
  • whatever the result (malignant or benign), the Lord will grant me His strength & peace as I go through yet another trial

thanks for praying,
tsk tsk
hp : 9107-0036

Friday, 12 December 2008

has cancer returned?

It had been an agonising 2 weeks since I received my latest CT scan results on 26 Nov 2008. Has cancer returned? Is the time-bomb in my right lung about to explode?

This is the second time in 2 years the report says, "suspicious of pulmonary metastases". This means cancer is suspected to have spread to the lung. The nodule on the upper lobe of my right lung has increased in size from previous 0.2cm to 0.6cm. There are 2 other smaller nodules on the lower lobe. The report sounded like a second death sentence. I wished it was a mistake. I wished it was all a bad dream. I wished I did not have to relive the agony of cancer.

My oncologist looked worried. He showed me the scanned images on the computer. I saw the 3 nodules. He added cautiously, "we don't know if it is cancer but anything that grows at this rate is likely to be cancer." Dr Wee gave me 4 options to consider. I asked to see a surgical oncologist. He referred me to Prof Koong, the head of surgical oncology at NCC, who specialises in lung cancer.

Prof Koong was on leave, so I was scheduled to see him on the day he returned - 12 Dec 2008. But on Tue, his nurse called to ask me to come a day earlier. I am thankful to PS who took time to be with me. Prof Koong patiently explained the need for surgery & advised that the surgery should be done as soon as possible to prevent further complications. The nodule tissue will be sent for lab tests to determine if it is malignant (cancer). This is a major operation which will take probably 2-3 hours. Post-surgery side-effects include temporary numbness & occasional pain.

Prof Koong gave 2 available dates for surgery - 22 Dec or 19 Jan. We decided on the earlier date although I felt it was too soon. The idea of going for surgery made me very scared. Eight years ago, I underwent a 4-hour surgery to remove a thyroid nodule. I know what it's like to go under the knife. Now I have to go through another one again.

22 Dec is only 10 days away. I will be warded for about a week. This means I will be spending Christmas at SGH. My first Noel in a hospital.

"My flesh and my heart may fail
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:26)

thanks for walking with me through this difficult journey,

tsk tsk

Thursday, 20 November 2008

50kg at long last

I am required to do a CT Scan (from head to abdomen) on my anniversary month every year. After I did the scan this morning at NCC, I went to weigh myself at the same weighing machine. I had done this for the last 2 years. Different weighing machines show me different weights, so I only trust this particular machine for consistency.

I was happy I finally weighed 50kg. It has taken me one whole lifetime to reach 50kg. This gives me a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 19.5 which is within the normal range. My BMI used to be 18.5 or less. I was underweight for most of my life. It's such an irony of life - some people try so hard to lose weight while I try so hard to put on weight.

I will know the scan results next Wed when I see my oncologist.

thanks for praying,
tsk tsk

Saturday, 8 November 2008

a tearful farewell

My BSF Teaching Leader, Ai Fong, retires this year after serving 12 years as TL in the Queenstown BSF class. Today we held a farewell lunch in her honour.

The celebration began with a cheery mood but ended with a "teary" goodbye. The master-of-ceremony got everyone's head cracking as she quizzed us on how much we could remember our lessons from Matthew. It was fun as we tried to recall the miracles, parables, beatitudes, Jesus' sayings, His birth, life, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, etc.

The mood in the room turned sombre when it was time for each representative from Admin, Discussion Leaders & Children's Leaders (CLs) to give their farewell speeches. Yours truly was given the honour to represent the CLs. Ai Fong was visibly touched by the speeches. It was a tearful farewell. Not an eye was dry. We presented Ai Fong with a "Memory Book" which was a compilation of "memories" contributed by each leader.

Lord, thank You that Your Word has changed the lives of many through the BSF ministry. I am one such person whose life You have impacted.

tsk tsk

Sunday, 12 October 2008

time out from BSF

My son asked if you could teach him again next year. I told him you are leaving BSF,” one BSF leader told me at the Leaders' Meeting yesterday.

These words warmed my heart. God has indeed impacted the life of this boy. Teaching the Senior Level at the BSF school program has been very fulfilling. It is a joy to see young people yearning to know God & hungering for His Word. It is an encouragement to see them growing in the Lord. I am thankful I can be a part of this boy’s spiritual journey with God.

Doing God's work has its share of discouragements too. But our Heavenly Father knows how to handle them. In my 10 years as a BSF leader, God had never failed to send someone to lift me up whenever I had felt like quitting. Last year, God sent a 7-year-old boy to encourage me when I had thought of leaving BSF (see blog entry on 28 Aug 2007).

Yes, I am leaving BSF after 10 long years of service. This is the 3rd time I have asked the Lord for permission to leave. This time He granted my request. I call it my one-year sabbatical but my BSF co-labourers call it a secondment. I need time out from BSF to settle some earthly business before the Lord calls me home. Like the prophet Elijah, I also feel burnt-out & need a personal retreat with God to reflect, to refresh, to rejuvenate. And if God willing, I would like to go back to school not to earn another degree but to equip myself further for God's service.

Nose Cancer Support Group
Another reason for my sabbatical was because I felt the calling to commit one year of my life to serve in the NPC Support Group. NPC-SG is a nose cancer support group under the auspices of the National Cancer Centre (NCC). This support group was set up in 2005 to provide an environment for emotional support & sharing of experiences among NPC patients & survivors. It organises talks & activities to help patients & survivors cope with nose cancer (NPC = nasopharyngeal or nose cancer).

I have been with this support group for the last 2 years. We meet on the 1st Friday of the month at the NCC premises. I believe it's important for cancer survivors to meet other survivors who share the same experiences, walk the same journey & speak the same language. Life after cancer is a totally new experience for every survivor; there are anxieties, challenges & frustrations along the way. The cancer support group is the place to meet similar people who understand what we are going through & remind us that we are not alone.

With the growing membership, the NPC-SG committee has felt the need to set up a website. But this project has been put on hold for 2 years as no suitable person with writing ability could be found. The committee chairman approached me for help as he felt I could contribute in this area. I thought & prayed hard. It took me many months before I said yes. I wasn't sure if I could be fully committed. I will simply take one step at a time, trusting God to lead me to do what He wants me to do.

tsk tsk

Thursday, 18 September 2008

what did ENT say?

Thyroid Ultrasound & Biopsy Results
The ultrasound showed 2 lesions of 0.6cm & 0.5cm in the upper pole and a small nodule of 0.7cm x 0.4cm in the lower pole of my left thyroid. But they appear benign.

Occasional dizzy spells & falling sensation
Dr Ng did some physical tests on me. I was asked to stand with eyes closed, lie down, turn my head & so on. I think I "failed" the tests. He suspected I might have problem with my inner ear. He said this could be caused by radiation & explained that low blood pressure was not the cause but could make my condition worse. He prescribed Betahistine & Prochloperazine to stabilise my dizzy spells. I have to take this medication for the next 3 months before coming back to do Vestibular Battery Test (VBT) in Dec. The test will take 1-1.5 hours.
  • Vestibular testing consists of a number of tests that help determine if there is something wrong with the vestibular (balance) portion of the inner ear.
  • These tests can help isolate dizziness symptoms to a specific cause that can often be treated.
  • If dizziness is not caused by the inner ear, it might be caused by the brain, by medical disorders such as low blood pressure or by psychological problems such as anxiety.

Choking Experiences
Occasionally I feel choked by a lump of "phlegm" in my throat. Breathing becomes difficult. I have to drain down the "phlegm" with lots of water. I notice that I often feel hungry too, even after a meal. From the symptoms I described, Dr Ng suspected I might be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux. He explained that it was not phlegm but acid that came back to my throat from the stomach.

  • Stomach contents are normally acidic & are kept inside the stomach by a valve at the lower end of the esophagus (food tube or gullet).
  • Gastroesophageal reflux is the term used when stomach acids come back into the esophagus or throat.
  • Symptoms result from direct irritation by acid & stomach enzymes or by reflex tightening of throat muscles.
  • The sense of a lump in the throat is called globus & may result from chronic reflux laryngitis or increased tension in the upper esophageal muscles behind the voice box.
  • An increase in secretions in the throat results in habitual throat clearing. These secretions may be mistaken as post-nasal drip or "phlegm".
  • A patient with night-time reflux may awaken with a sore, irritated throat & a gravely hoarse voice.
  • Muscle tension in the larynx may lead to vocal difficulty, trouble swallowing & in severe cases to choking spells & airway obstruction.
  • Heartburn is a typical symptom of gastroesophageal reflux.

Dr Ng put me on Omeprazole to decrease the amount of acid produced in my stomach. Omeprazole is used to treat symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux and other conditions caused by excess stomach acid.

Is my body slowly breaking down because of radiation? Did I inherit all these "diseases" from radiation? I sometimes joke that I may die from these symptoms but not from cancer!

I thank God that I can live each day by His grace, with or without cancer.

tsk tsk

Friday, 29 August 2008

medical tests & results

Here is a brief report on my SGH visits yesterday.

Thyroid nodule - ultrasound & biopsy
I waited one hour as the doctor was busy with patients at the specialist outpatient clinic. While waiting for the doctor, the nurse did all the necessary things to check that I was fit. I was told that my blood pressure was quite low (94/68). No wonder I had been feeling faint lately, but not giddy. Sometimes I do feel like I am going to fall, esp in crowded places. I am worried that one day I might just simply collapse on the road.

At 2.30pm Assoc Prof Tay finally came. He checked the thyroid ultrasound which I did in the morning & told me there was a small nodule on the left side of my thyroid. He then performed a "fine needle aspiration biopsy" (FNAB) on my left thyroid. I was put on local anaesthesia as he poked 3 times into my neck. There was a bit of pain & discomfort but the procedure was over by 3pm.

My ENT doctor will review the results with me at my next consultation in Sep.

O & G Centre - fibroids & CA125
My fibroids have not grown bigger; in fact, I think they have shrunk slightly. The CA125 reading is in the normal range : 24.6 (<35.1), compared to the previous reading of 42.8. This good result is reassuring to me.

Thank You Lord for your protection.
Thank you all for your prayers.

tsk tsk

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

thyroid nodule

I had an operation 8 years ago to remove a nodule on the right lobe of my thyroid gland. The benign nodule measured 1.5cm & the operation took several hours.

The PET scan I did in March had shown a nodule on the left side of my thyroid. Tomorrow I will be going to SGH to do a thyroid ultrasound followed by FNAB (fine needle aspiration biopsy). The results will be reviewed by my ENT doctor in Sep.

I will also be seeing my gynae in the afternoon to follow-up on my fibroids & to review the CA125 results.

thanks for praying,
tsk tsk

Saturday, 16 August 2008

life after cancer.....2 years on

Today is a nostalgic day. On this day 2 years ago, I was told I had nasopharyngeal cancer. The memories are still fresh. That unexpected news opened a new chapter in my life. Life after cancer has never been the same. Cancer treatment took only 2 months but the after-effects of radiotherapy continue to affect every facet of my life even today.

The most severe after-effect is xerostomia or dry mouth condition. I have only about 70% of saliva in my mouth compared to that of a normal person. We have often taken our saliva for granted, oblivious to its multiple God-given benefits. Without saliva, we will find it difficult to eat, swallow or talk. Without saliva, our teeth & gum will become extra-sensitive & will be prone to dental decay.

God has given us every part in our human body for a purpose. If any part is missing or breaks down, our body will not function properly. It takes a divine mind to think of everything our body needs. Our God is a great God.

How do I survive with lack of saliva in my mouth? I need to sip water throughout the day. I need water, soup or gravy to go with my food. I must remember to bring a bottle of water when I go out. In places where drinking water is not allowed, such as in buses or trains, I will use a spray to wet my dry mouth.

Life after cancer has been full of challenges as I learn to live with all the changes. The journey to recovery would not have been possible without God's faithfulness & all your prayerful support.

Thank you, dear family & friends, for standing solidly by me these 2 years.

tsk tsk

Friday, 8 August 2008

my cough is gone

After some 3 weeks, my dry ticklish cough was finally gone.

This is my self-medication. I ate 1-2 china pears a day. I sipped freshly-brewed chrysanthemum drink the whole day. My TCM physician added a herb to my prescription. I gargled with salt water. God worked behind the scene. And my cough gradually dissipated.

During those 3 weeks, I again experienced God's miraculous touch. My ticklish throat miraculously cleared each time it was my turn to teach at the BSF school program; my cough was miraculously put on hold during my recent dental follow-up at NDC. Outside these situations, my ticklish cough would resume. It couldn't have happened without divine hands at work.

Thank you all for praying with me.
Thank You Lord for healing me.

tsk tsk

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

medical schedule

This is an update on my medical appointments for the rest of the year.

7 Aug - NDC dental follow-up
21 Aug - Blood test for CA125
28 Aug - Thyroid ultrasound & FNAB
28 Aug - O&G Clinic (fibroid, CA125 review)
18 Sep - ENT Clinic (thyroid nodule review)
20 Nov - Annual CT scan
26 Nov - NCC (CT scan review)
26 Nov - NDC dental follow-up
27 Nov - Liver ultrasound
3 Dec - Liver Clinic (ultrasound review)
11 Dec - ENT Clinic (VBT & consultation)

16 Aug is forever etched in my memory. It marks my second anniversary. I give thanks to God that I have survived for 2 years. Each day is a day of grace & blessing from God.

thanks for journeying with me these 2 years,
tsk tsk

Saturday, 2 August 2008

dry cough

In the past 2 weeks, I have developed a dry irritating cough which refuses to go away. I also notice that my dry mouth has become more dry, the corners of my lips are tearing & my right thumb is cracking again. I am not sure if they are all related, but they seem to come all at the same time!

Last Saturday, my TCM physician added a herb into the prescription to relieve my dry throat. He also advised me to take China pears. I am taking lots of fruits which I think may help lubricate my dry throat & mouth. Because I have xerostomia (dry mouth), a side-effect of radiation, my mouth is always dry for lack of saliva so I need to sip water throughout the day. But it doesn't do much to relieve my dry throat.

tsk tsk

Thursday, 24 July 2008

thyroid test result

Dr Ng called me today, just as he said he would once he received the result. That was fast as I did the blood test only yesterday.

The thyroid result was not much different from the test I did last year. The free T4 thyroxine is normal while TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) is slightly higher than normal. A normal T4 & a high TSH is considered mild thyroidism. Dr Ng said there was no need for treatment, just an annual follow-up would do.

When I compared the result with last year's, I noticed that the TSH reading had actually gone down marginally. The reduction might be considered small but to me, any small improvement is a good sign. Test results such as this will help me to gauge the effectiveness of TCM treatment.

Lord, thank You for the little, little improvements each day.

tsk tsk

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

ncc & liver clinic

The 1st 5 years are said to be most critical for cancer survivors. Research done on NPC survivors shows that the 5-year survival rate is as follows : Stage 1 : 80-90%; Stage 2 : 60-70%; Stage 3 : 50%; Stage 4 : 20-50% (NPC = nasopharyngeal cancer or nose cancer). I was diagnosed with Stage 2 NPC in 2006.

Being my second year of survival, I now go to NCC for review once every 4 months. Today was my 2nd review this year. Dr Wee, my oncologist was away on conference leave, so I was attended to by Dr Ng.

Dr Ng asked me some standard questions & decided to do a blood test to check for thyroid. The same test I did one year ago showed I had mild hypothyroidism but not critical enough to be on medication. Dr Ng wanted to do the test again to check if it had become worse. Some symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue, breathlessness & intolerance of cold. I seem to have all of these. I understand that thyroid problems are common in cancer survivors who had head or neck radiation. I am one such survivor.

October is my "cancer anniversary month" so I have been scheduled to do CT scan in Nov to check for metastasis or spread of cancer. The scan I did last year had revealed 2 cysts on my right lung. Are the cysts still there? Have they grown in size? This is one concern on my doctor's mind. It's also my concern.

I went for my 2nd appointment in the afternoon. This time it was the liver clinic. The purpose was to review the AFP tumour marker. The 2-hour wait was long & tiring, and I almost slept while waiting for my turn. The liver clinic opens only on Wednesday afternoons & the long waiting time has become something like a norm for the clinic. Why is there such a shortage of liver specialists (hepatologists), I wonder? Or have they all gone into private practice?

The liver consultation was a non-event. Dr Leong went to some length to assure me there was nothing wrong with my liver & said the AFP test was unnecessary in the first place. I could sense his annoyance with the O&G clinic for ordering this test & giving me unnecessary anxiety. For this, Dr Leong said he would waive the consultation fee for today. He apologised that it was a wasted trip for me. Isn't that nice & thoughtful of him? Doctors do have a heart too. He reminded me to come for the once-a-year liver ultrasound scan & review in Nov.

To me, it was not a wasted trip. Dr Leong's assurance confirms what my body has been telling me all this while. I am one who looks out for external signs or symptoms which I believe would warn me if there is something not right in my body. So far there are no such signs or symptoms so I believe I don't have liver problems.

What a long day! I was exhausted by the time I reached home after 7pm. Maybe I am hypothyroid? I will wait for my oncologist's call. He has promised to call me when the blood test result is out in a few days' time.

thanks for reading & for praying,
tsk tsk

Saturday, 5 July 2008

results of tumour markers

Tumour markers are substances, usually proteins, that are produced by the body in response to cancer growth or by the cancer tissue itself. Tumour markers may be used to help diagnose cancer, predict a patient’s response to particular therapies, check a patient’s response to treatment or determine if cancer has returned. Different tumour markers are found in different types of cancer. In general, tumour markers cannot be used alone to diagnose cancer; they must be combined with other tests.

So far, no tumour marker has gained acceptance as a general screening test. Most tumour markers are not sensitive or specific enough to be used for cancer screening (too many false positives, leading to expensive and unnecessary follow-up testing). A study done in the USA showed only about 3 out of 100 women with elevated CA-125 actually had ovarian cancer. And 1 in 5 women with ovarian cancer never had an elevated CA-125 level. This goes to show tumour markers are not 100% reliable.

On 12 Jun, I took blood tests for the following tumour markers :
  • AFP (alphafoeto protein) - to test for liver cancer
  • CA-125 - to test for ovarian cancer
  • CEA (carcino-embryonic antigen) - to test for colon cancer

On 3 Jul, my gynae showed me the results of the above tumour markers. Two of the markers have high reading : AFP & CA-125. In the coming weeks, I am scheduled to do more tests to verify the results. I think there is no harm in doing more tests as long as the results can confirm there is nothing wrong with my liver & ovary. Early detection is always better. I pray that the additional tests will show the tumour marker results to be false positives, meaning that I do not have the disease even though the tumour marker result is higher than normal.

After receiving the TM results, I went to Chinatown to collect my TCM herbs. I returned to SGH for my next appointment at the National Dental Centre. My teeth are posing a great challenge to me as I constantly fight against tooth decay caused by radiation. Dental problem is a major side-effect faced by NPC survivors (NPC=nasopharyngeal cancer). It will be a lifetime struggle to fight against tooth decay.

Thanks for reading my blog. I'm always encouraged when someone tells me he/she reads my blog. Why? Because I know that as you read, you will join me in praising God for His goodness. Because I am assured I am not alone on this road to recovery.

tsk tsk

Monday, 16 June 2008

not another cancer scare?

At 2.43pm today, I received a surprise call from my gynae's nurse. Nobody likes to receive phone calls from his or her doctor. Doctors normally call only when there is bad news.

So I prepared my heart for bad news. My mind immediately turned to the tumour markers I did last Thurday to test for ovarian cancer. My gynae mentioned they would call me if the tests showed bad results; otherwise my next visit would be in 3 months.

The nurse told me my gynae would like to see me in early July instead of August. I asked her why. She replied, "The tumour markers showed very high reading so it is of much concern." I asked, "If it is so urgent, then why not I come in this week?" The nurse said, "It's not that urgent but your gynae suggests you come back in early July." So we fixed the appointment for 3 July 2008.

I pray that it wouldn't be another cancer scare. I had a scare in March when my lung report suspected lung metastasis (meaning, cancer was suspected to have spread to the lungs). But the PET scan I did showed there was no sign of cancer in my lungs.

"Lord, my flesh & my heart may fail, but You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

tsk tsk

Sunday, 15 June 2008

my story (6)

my journey with pain

I have high tolerance for suffering but low tolerance for pain. Does this sound contradictory? I don't think so.

Before cancer, my worst "suffering" was during those years in London when I had to work part-time in the evenings & weekends, and held down 4 jobs during the summer vacation just to support myself through university. My chauvinistic father had refused to sponsor this daughter of his so I had to find my own ways & means. I was only 18 when I left for London. It was suffering to me because it was not easy to study & work at the same time. And believe it or not, I still managed to find the strength & time to teach in Sunday School! I experienced God as my Jehovah-Jireh during my 5 years in London. Well, this is another story which I will tell another time.

I am one who can't tolerate physical pain. I would tense up & close my eyes each time I go for blood tests. I would often ask, "Is it painful?" each time I go for tests & investigations. When I learned I had cancer, the first thing that came to my mind was pain. I must say I was scared. I was scared of pain. I had seen with my own eyes how my late sister went through cancer in great agony & pain. I had been praying silently for years that I would never have to follow in my sister's footsteps. But God thinks otherwise. God has willed that I should go through the dark valley of cancer to experience His love, mercy, grace & power.

Most nose cancer patients would experience the following side-effects of radiation but to varying degrees. I am recording this personal story in the hope that it will prepare those who are about to begin this same journey. May God be your strength & comfort.

Dry mouth. My mouth became very dry because radiation had destroyed my salivary glands. I will have to live with this dry mouth effect, medically known as xerostomia, all my life. With little saliva in my mouth, I began to experience problems with eating & talking. My teeth also began to decay.

Ulcers. By Week 2 ulcers began to appear in my mouth. The ulcers soon multiplied to hundreds all over my mouth & throat and were extremely painful. It was difficult to eat, drink, swallow & talk. It was torturous. It was nightmarish.

Saliva. My saliva became thick & phlegmy like glue. By Week 3, my salivary glands had been bombed so badly by radiation that saliva was flowing out of my mouth 24/7 non-stop! The saliva was so thick it was impossible to swallow. I had to spit it out all the time. I couldn't eat, talk & sleep. It was worst than a nightmare. It was like I was being put through a torture chamber.

Feeding Tube. By the end of Week 3, I was totally unable to eat or drink through the mouth. My mouth & throat were so painful with ulcers. My oncologist asked me to come down immediately to have a feeding tube inserted to my stomach through the nose. Previously, I had noticed an old man with a feeding tube. I never expected I would end up with one myself. I looked like a monster. It affected my self-esteem. I felt so low & lousy I cried. I never knew I would be reduced to such a state. I stopped going to church.

Nausea. By Week 4, I felt very sick. I kept throwing out. On 7 Oct 2006, I was vomitting so badly the feeding tube came off my throat! One of my "emergency 911" angels rushed me to SGH. I was immediately warded for acute dehydration.

Hospitalisation. I was warded for a week. I felt so miserable as I struggled with pain & nausea. One night, the valley seemed to have turned so dark, I felt I couldn't carry on anymore. I cried & cried to the Lord. God heard my cry. I was able to sleep that night. The next morning, I surprised everyone when I could take breakfast for the first time without vomitting!

Constipation. After I was discharged, I had bowel problems probably due to eating problems & effects of medication. On 18 Oct 2006, I was re-admitted to SGH for acute constipation.

Re-Hospitalisation. I was warded for another week. My suffering continued, this time with the added problem of constipation. The ward doctor re-inserted the feeding tube to enable me to take liquid milk as I was losing a lot of weight. Once again, I looked like a monster. I completed my radiotherapy 4 days after I was discharged. But I was on feeding tube for one month as the ulcers took a long time to heal.

The Bible says that all things work for our good (Romans 8:28) although many times we don't see how they could. I do not know or understand why God should "choose" me to go through such suffering & pain. But one thing I know, no matter how painful the journey, I will trust my loving Father all the way. This is because I know that God is too wise to make mistakes; God is too good to make me suffer for no reason or purpose.

Lesson : God's grace is sufficient & His power is made perfect in our weakness.
Someone once said, "The Spirit of God will not lead a man where the grace of God cannot keep him." God has promised His grace is always sufficient when we are weak. Paul said, "That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10)

Application : How will you praise & thank God in the midst of your suffering & pain?

thanks for joining me in this painful journey of the past,
tsk tsk